No matter how careful you are, social media is causing you some harm. Beyond data collection and privacy risks, just using social media exposes you to misinformation, cyberbullying and unrealistic depictions of a better life from influencers who are paid to deceive you.
“Hacks” have become a popular method for pushing a post to go viral. The problem is that the people behind these videos are often not professionals, and they couldn’t care less if their millions of viewers mess something up. Tap or click here to check out an air fryer hack that could cause a fire.
It’s no secret that social media platforms know a lot about their users, but it gets worse in the case of TikTok. It’s bad enough that the FCC commissioner is calling for removing the immensely popular TikTok video-sharing app from the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
The FCC wants TikTok gone
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has asked Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to remove TikTok from their app stores. Carr tweeted his request along with a copy of the letter he sent to both CEOs.
“TikTok is not just another video app. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” Carr wrote in his post:
Tiktok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to all the data it collects, which is stored in Beijing, according to Carr’s letter (TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is based in Beijing).
Carr says that ByteDance is required by Chinese law to comply with China’s surveillance demands, which give them access to the collected data. No other popular software is spying to this extent, and there’s no way to block the app from collecting data.
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Throwing down the gauntlet
If Apple and Google do not remove TikTok from their app stores, Carr demands they tell him how the app doesn’t violate the privacy policies outlined in their app stores. The letter was dated June 24, and Carr expects a response by July 8.
Carr cited Apple’s removal of an app called Adware Doctor from its App Store for collecting data and sending it to China as a precedent for getting rid of TikTok. And Google recently removed “dozens” of apps for violating its privacy policies.
Where is all that TikTok data stored?
TikTok recently boasted that the app has 1 billion monthly active users. According to Carr’s letter, the app was downloaded 19 million times this quarter. All that data has to be stored somewhere.
TikTok has long maintained that it stores all U.S. user data in the U.S., with backup redundancy in Singapore.
According to a recent statement from the company, TikTok has been working with American tech giant Oracle “to better safeguard our app, systems, and the security of U.S. user data” and that “100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.”
The stateside and Singapore data centers will still be used for backup, but the company says it will be deleting U.S. users’ private data from its data centers to “fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the U.S.”
Who gets to see all that data?
According to a TikTok post from 2019, the company’s data centers are located outside China, so none of it is subject to Chinese law.
“We are not influenced by any foreign government, including the Chinese government; TikTok does not operate in China, nor do we have any intention of doing so in the future,” the statement reads.
In his letter to Google and Apple, Carr states that storing user data in Oracle servers based in the U.S. does not address his concerns. Beijing can still access that data.
Carr also referenced a Buzzfeed report claiming that leaked audio from TikTok meetings in China revealed that its engineers did indeed have access to U.S. data.
What should you do about it?
There’s only one thing to do. Remove TikTok from your phone immediately. Even if you don’t create content on the app, the company still collects data on you.
Remove TikTok from your iPhone
- Touch and hold the TikTok app.
- Tap Remove App.
- Tap Delete App, then tap Delete to confirm.
Remove TikTok from your Android phone
- Open the Google Play app.
- At the top right, tap the Profile icon.
- Tap Manage apps & devices and then Manage.
- Tap the TikTok app.
- Tap Uninstall.
Get on a virtual private network
A virtual private network, or VPN, provides a layer of protection between your devices and the internet. It hides your IP address and location and encrypts your data.
A VPN protects you and your online traffic from snooping and interference from hackers, governments and even your internet service provider. VPNs keep your online activity private and allow you to access sites and services that may be restricted in certain areas.
We recommend our sponsor, ExpressVPN. Big Tech companies match your internet activity to your identity or location by using your public IP address, but with ExpressVPN, no one can see your IP address — no one.
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